VISALIA – A trip to the semifinals of the Cal Ripken Major/60 World Series – an event that wasn't even on the host city's radar two years ago – didn't seem possible for Buchanan early Tuesday afternoon.
Buchanan needed – and received – help advancing to the single-elimination portion of the 10-team national tournament for players 12-and-younger as losses by Bakersfield and Raynham, Mass., on Tuesday evening left all three at 1-3, with the All-Stars from Clovis moving on based on fewest runs allowed.
And Carson Olson made the most of his team's good fortune Wednesday, going 4 for 4 with four RBIs and pitching the final two innings for the win to lead Buchanan to a 14-10 win over Bronx, N.Y., and into the semifinals at Riverway Sports Park.
"It's more than we could have imagined [Tuesday] at noon," said Buchanan manager Bart Selma, the son of former major league pitcher Dick Selma. "We were praying for a way to back into this.
"Carson was outstanding. Up until today, he'd been struggling. But he hit extra last night and it showed today."
After falling behind 8-7 as Bronx scored seven runs in the fourth inning, Olson's two-run single in the fifth put Buchanan in front. His two-run home run in the sixth gave Buchanan some insurance that Olson made sure wasn't necessary by setting the Bronx down in order in the bottom half of the inning.
"We had one hiccup today, but everyone did a great job," Olson said. "We've got some momentum going into the next game. If we keep swinging the bats, we'll do great."
Buchanan advances to play South Lexington, Ky., at 5:30 p.m. today, while host and top-seeded Visalia plays Southern Pitt, N.C., at 7:30 p.m. The winners will advance to Friday's championship game, scheduled for 7 p.m.
Visalia, which went 4-0 to win its pool and along with the Kentucky team earn a bye Wednesday, will send Jace Chamberlin or Jordan Prendiz to the mound today.
"It was nice to get the No. 1 seed," Visalia manager Frank Durazo said. "I can rest my pitchers. They will be ready to go."
Visalia didn't figure to be hosting this tournament so soon after the four-field Riverway Sports Park Baseball Complex was completed last year. Durazo said Visalia Youth Baseball was planning to bid to host the event five to six years down the line, but when an opening in 2011 came up 18 months ago, the organization jumped at the chance.
Durazo said tournament organizers have raised more than $100,000 to not only host an event that had drawn more than 30,000 fans through its first five days, but also to provide a live video feed of all the tournament games on the Internet. They have had more than 100,000 hits.
Tournament president Scott Mederos said roughly 250 volunteers have helped pull off the event.
"It's been fantastic so far," Mederos said. "It's exceeded expectations on some levels."